The programme was run in the Share Centre in Lisnaskea, county Fermanagh with trained instructors sharing water safely advice with over 160 children.
The fun, hour-long sessions are devised to teach young people how to swim safely outdoors and what to do if they, or someone else, get into difficulty in the water. The sessions are run by qualified swimming instructors and lifeguards, supported by a team of volunteers and give children:
Up to 30 minutes of practical, in-water tuition led by qualified instructors
Essential open water safety advice
A free Swim Safe goody bag take home
The programme was brought to Fermanagh by Belcoo man Damien McHugh who is involved with the RNLI through his role as Chairperson of Fermanagh GAA Health and Wellbeing Committee. The RNLI and the GAA are currently in a partnership to help prevent drowning and to give young people life-saving water safety advice through club talks with volunteer ambassadors.
Commenting on the Swim Safe weekend Damien said, ‘It was fantastic to see so many young people signing up for the free water safety sessions. When I learned about Swim Safe through my involvement with the RNLI / GAA life-saving partnership, I knew that the Share Centre would be the perfect location to hold it. I want to thank them for coming onboard and making it a great success.’
‘I also want to thank everyone who supported this programme and signed up at short notice. I know that the children involved learned vital life-saving advice and skills, and I hope that they go on to share that advice with their friends and families.’
Ashley Jones, RNLI Swim Safe Manager, says: ‘We were overwhelmed by the response to the Swim Safe session in Fermanagh. It was a little later than we normally hold them, and we had a shorter sign-up time. However, many of the sessions were booked out and the others were near to capacity. That is a lot of young children learning new skills.’
‘We hold these sessions outdoors as the environment is very different to swimming pool, where most children learn to swim. It’s essential children learn about open water safety – where it is safe to swim, how to stay safe and what to do if they get into difficulty in the water.’
All Swim Safe sessions are funded by the RNLI and Swim England partnership and are completely free of charge. This year was the first time Swim Safe was run on inland waters in Northern Ireland. The RNLI operate two lifeboat stations on Lough Erne at Carrybridge and Enniskillen.